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July 10, 2008 Far Future Technology, Part 3

...continued from Far Future Technology, Part 2

Type 3

The nature of galaxies had been known for some time when Kardeshev excercised his visionary insights. Galaxies are large collections of stars, dust, gas, planets, etc. We live within the Milky Way galaxy, which is estimated to contain a collection of about 200 billion individual stars that form a roughly flattened spiral structure. Galaxies come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. Ours happens to be on the slightly higher end of the size scale, but there are those that contain on the order of trillions of stars! That's 10 times, or more, massive than ours. Still others are much smaller and in fact our Milky Way has several much smaller "satellite galaxies" orbiting it that contain "only" 10's or 100's of thousands of stars. The most common of the satellite galaxies are the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds. These can be seen in the Southern hemisphere skies with the naked eye and appear to be just that: very dimly lit small clouds in the sky.

There are estimated to be 100's of billions of individual galaxies within the observable universe. Our galaxy is huge! The fastest known moving 'thing' is light. It travels at 282,000 miles per second, which means that it could make 7 rotations around Earth in one second! Now, knowing this, to get a glimpse of the size of our galaxy imagine taking a trip on a light beam starting from one end of our spiral galaxy. It would take about 200,000 years at this fastest known speed to traverse the length of our galaxy! That would be like the length of time that has passed since the time of Jesus times 100! Our galaxy is truly an amazing size.

Why, you may ask, am I talking about galaxies? Because I am setting the context for the next level of Kardeshev's civilization: Type 3. If Type 3 civilizations do in fact exist somewhere in our universe then they could rightly be considered "god-like" in nature. For these are the civilizations that would be extracting and using the energy equivalent to that of an entire galaxy!! (On a sidenote, I would venture to say that any considerably more advanced technological civilization than our own could be considered "god-like" relative to us. Arthur C. Clarke has said that any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic. So, it would be very difficult to put an accurate relative adjective to describe a Type 3 society's knowledge.)

Type 3 Civilization

So, an entire galaxy's energy output, such as the Milky Way's being utilized for one civilization! It would be difficult to conceive of how this energy could possibly be collected, let alone what it could be used for. But one of the beautiful ideas of this theory is the assumption that if there do exist such societies in the universe, then their existance can easily be known by detection of their normal functioning. But is this assumption sound? Some radio astronomers have in fact searched for Type 3 civilizations. You would imagine that their signatures in the sky would be unmistakable, but again this would probably be a wrong assumption.

If a Type 3 civilization had somehow enclosed their target galaxy in order to utilize its energy output it may or may not be noticeable. Would the structure be a visible enclosure? Would it be made of normal material or some sort of exotic matter or energy? We can only speculate. No conclusive proof has ever been found for the existance of Type 3 extraterrestrial civilizations.

It should be mentioned at the outset that as we approach the boundaries of technology, such as Type 3 societies, a part of me says that it may be impossible to determine if what we are looking at is really the constructs of a civilization in the first place. I like to imagine the often-mentioned image of ants' awareness of humans. Would ants notice or even have an inkling of what a collection of cars in traffic be; even if they were slowly walking on the surface of one? This may be an absurdly extreme comparison, for ants are, afterall, perhaps 100's of millions of years seperated from us in their evolution, whereas a Type 3 civilization may be much closer to us in a technology evolution timespan. We are, also, a much more intelligent species than the ant. But is it really so different? We may, in our scientifically guided intellect, explain away an artificially constructed object from a Type 3 civilization as a naturally ocurring object.

Type 4?

Extraterrestrial Gods?

Why stop here? Current astrophysical speculation imagines a multiverse in which our universe is embedded in an even grander super-universe. Within this super-universe there exists a multitude of other universes. Albeit, this is the fringe of quantum theory and astrophysics, but wow! How fascinating it is! Some aspects of these well-tested and robust frameworks of science (quantum theory and relativity) even demand the existence of a multiverse! If this is reality and we do indeed live within a multiverse then the next step in Kardeshev's civilization types logically follow to a Type 4 civilization in which the utilization of an entire universe's energy could be managed (although he had never gone so far as to speculate on this Type of society). This could, perhaps, be done through the use of individual universe creation and destruction (Big Bangs and Big Crunches).

There is very much more to say and expand upon on these ideas and I will happily do so in upcoming blog articles on the subject. Continue watching for updates.

Frank Maybusher


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